Back in the days of the Industrial Revolution machines were becoming so commonplace that many feared that they could one day rise up and replace humanity altogether. That theme has continued through into science fiction, where we can see countless examples of things created by mankind rise up and become our masters. It’s pretty much never depicted as a good thing.
Well, bad news people. It’s already occured!
There is indeed a force, created by and owing all its power to us. It dictates how we spend our time. Our whole lives! We purposely serve it, barely even recognizing its influence. Of course, I am speaking of money. There’s a reason that it is called the Almighty Dollar. As the O’Jays so rightly put it: “For a small piece of paper it carries a lot of weight.”
Some have described it as the root of all evil. Personally, I think evil is far to strong a word. More accurately, I’d say it’s one of the biggest roots of Humanity Going Nowhere. Money drives so very much of our conscious action that it has become unconscious. It is the boss now.
Now, it’s my feeling that money was invented for one reason, people are greedy. And money set the fires a-burning and they’re an inferno by now. Without money, people would still be greedy. People would still steal things because they just plain suck. But money, we’re told, is needed to get us things we need to live. So we try to get as much as possible of the precious stuff as possible, because We Need It. We end up spending hours and hours every day just so we can get money. I mean, my job doesn’t help society in any way and certainly I don’t think it is a useful way of spending the limited time I have on Earth, but if I want to be able to pay for my rent and food, I’m pretty much stuck.
I mean, look at Star Trek. Humans don’t have any currency there and they seem to be living pretty fine. In fact, they’re way better off then us. They’ve got special effects! Thus, my point is proven. But I’ll continue anyway. I’m am going to do what all people should do with topics like this, I’m going to look at it through the I-Just-Made-It-Up town of Gundersonville!
Steve McJabboflab works at the Gundersonville Chair Factory. He uses his the money he earns at this job to pay for his food, shelter, clothes and, you know, stuff he likes. His boss is Edward Toverladel who makes significantly more than Steve. Edward also spends his hard-earned money on food and shelter and stuff he likes. Steve likes his job. He’s be happier if Ed wasn’t always riding him about quotas and revenues and stuff, but he really does enjoy working with his hands and it always makes him smile, inside anyway, when he sees someone using one of the chairs he made. Edward doesn’t care about the factory beyond its money-making capacities. He inherited the factory from his father and though he’d prefer to be doing other things, the factory gives him the money he needs to get by.
Both those men shop at the Gundersonvill Grocery Mart, owned by one Gary Ruffbuttsecks. Gary gets a lot of business from his store, and he makes decent money. He likes his job fine, but it’s just a job to him. Much of the money he collects goes, of course, to restocking the shelves and paying his cashier, Lucy Twillinhape, who is working to pay her way through college, hoping to one day become a nurse. What money Gary gets to keep, he spends on his car (aside from food and shelter, of course). One occasional customer of the store, Denny Chaltoman is a teenaged boy who likes to steal, more for the thrill than for the bag of chips or magazine that he’ll gain. As a result, Gary occasionally has to raise his prices to make up for the loss in revenue.
Outside of Gary’s store is Boris Megglopong. Homeless, Boris lost his job because he lost his temper one day and punched a co-worker who had called him fat. Now Boris spends his mornings outside the Grocery Mart so that when the shipping truck pulls up with the produce, he can rummage through the scraps and make a decent meal. Winter is coming and if Boris doesn’t find a place to stay, he’ll be in for a hell of a time. That produce truck is driven by Shelly Mackamackatoe, an elderly woman who has taken up a job in her retirement so that she can continue to make payments on her house now that her beloved Gus is gone.
The produce is grown on a farm owned by Jeremy Goily. A hard-working farmer, for as long as he’s been able to walk, Jeremy has been farming. He’s more than happy with his place in the world, but he’s growing aggrivated, no matter what he does he just can’t seem to get ahead. Taxes and rising prices are constantly making him spread his earnings. Fortunately Jeremy is a man who can get by with just the basics, so what profit he still manages to make, goes towards improving the farm equipment and paying for his children Dave and Lorraine to go through college.
All the people above pay taxes. Their tax money goes to Gundersonville City Hall and Mayor Harold L. Jawitherpone. Using the tax money, Jawitherpone allocates the annual budget and decides what will be spent and where. If all goes well he’ll have enough money to pay for all the things the city needs, such as making jobs and increasing the tourist revenue. Thus, the end result is Jawitherpone using the tax money to pay for goods and services, so that the people providing those goods and services can afford to buy goods and services so that the people providing these goods and services can afford to buy still more goods and services. And it goes on like that.
Now, replace that vision of Gundersonville with a cashless society in which people are generous (that’s the important part):
Jeremy Goily works his farm happily. He provides a lot food for the town and they’re thankful, so they provide him with all the equipment he needs. Several townspeople who also enjoy the farming life have moved out near the Goily farm and help out. Jeremy’s kids are both attending the free Gundersonville University. Dave is still not sure what he’s working towards, but Shelly is aiming to be a Medical Researcher.
Steve McJabboflab owns a carpentry shop downtown. He takes orders and works with a few of the other guys on lovingly handcrafter chairs, desks, dressers and pretty much anything else that a carpenter can make. Ed Toverladel’s father once worked at a carpentry shop like that, but Ed himself had no interest in it, so Ed and his boyfriend have instead opened a restaurant.
Lucy Twillinhape is attending classes at the Gundersonville University. Her ample free time outside of class means she has plenty of study-time and can still work in her volunteer work with that environmental group cleaning up the river and protecting animals and stuff. Gary Ruffbuttsecks is a painter. He produces at least one piece of art a week and, though not everyone’s tastes, he can usually find someone proud to hang it in their home or office. He’s also been working on an art film that he thinks will make a lot of people see the beauty that he finds in mundane simple objects like waffles and bowls. Sometime he feels insecure about his place in society, worrying that people think he’s not carrying his weight. Sometimes when he feels like that he’ll help people work on their cars, but he’s not as good as the autoshop downtown.
After Boris Megglopong punched a man who made fun of him, Boris had no job to lose, and such was able to keep his house and didn’t starve. Also, he was free to attend sessions with a therapist and is now on track to getting his anger in check. Shelly Mackamackatoe relaxes in her home after a long life working as a tailor. She misses her departed husband Gus, but she knows he lived a good life helping people, instead of spending all his time in a cubicle as he might have in another world.
Harold L. Jawitherpone is the ultimate servant of the people. Elected for his glorious vision of what the town could become, Jawitherpone has stayed true to that vision and worked wonders at inspiring people to help each other. Much of his day is still spent with trivial matters, such as what to do with that damn Chaltoman kid who keeps breaking into people’s cars. But most importantly Jawitherpone gets to go home to his wife knowing that he is making the town a place where people can work together to do things.
It’s by no means a perfect example of how an economy works, but look at all the funny-sounding names! That’s got to count for something.
My moral is simple. If everyone helped everyone else in the hard times, nobody could be poor, so they’d have one less reason to feel they have to steal. And people would be able to devote their lives to making the world a better place, instead of being devoted to next month’s rent. It would give our civilization one less reason to suck. If we all were willing to work a little harder to help each other, we’d all have it so much easier.
In the excellent movie Office Space, there is a character who opines that if everyone had a million dollars, there’d be no janitors because nobody would clean up shit if they were rich. A similar argument could be made here, that if nobody had monetary incentive to work the suck-jobs, they wouldn’t do it, because they’re unpleasant. Thus, society would crumble.
Well, I say if we’re not willing to help each other out and take care of things that need to be taken care of because they’re unpleasant, then maybe society deserves to crumble.
Patrick D Ryall, the D is for Equation
Put on Contains2 Tuesday 11 January 2005